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GC Report from Deputy Rev. David Knight - Deputation Chair

This General Convention (GC) in Louisville marks my seventh time as a member of a deputation to GC, the first four times from the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi, and the last three as chair of the deputation from the Episcopal Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast. It is always an honor to be elected to serve and I am very appreciative of the trust placed in me to serve as deputation chair.


I was reflecting last night with some seminary classmates as to why I participate in the governance of our church at this level. It is a lot of work, both before GC starts and during the convention itself - long days and late nights are the norm. Our President of the House of Deputies Julia Ayala Harris likes to call us “church nerds,” and I guess that fits. Participating has been a learning curve for sure, while also a blessing to get to know and work alongside some pretty amazing and dedicated people.


In 2012, I was honored to be selected as one of 12 people to serve on the Task Force on the Study of Marriage. The task force, created by the General Convention of 2012, was populated by bishops, scholars, teachers, and regular ole parish priests like me, with a huge task – to study and report on the theology of marriage and develop resources for the people of our church to engage in this work. Serving on this task force was the highlight of my time serving the wider church and I am very proud of the work we did together.


Prior to that appointment, I was also appointed to the Executive Council (the body which manages the church between General Conventions) Committee on Anti-Racism. I have worked in this area for many years, starting before I went to seminary, and I was honored to participate in this way. Our focus from 2009-2012, when I was serving, was to encourage diocesan efforts in racial healing and reconciliation training, and to develop more standard methods for the training and tracking of those who took the training. Again, I was blessed to work alongside some incredible deputies and bishops whose hearts for reconciliation and love were great models for me and our church.


My first GC was in 2006, this convention was the first one after the 2003 convention which approved the election of Gene Robinson as the first openly gay bishop of our church. I don’t have to tell people who have read this far how this impacted our church greatly going forward. As a somewhat newly ordained priest in Mississippi, I wanted to be part of our governance at the wider church level, but I must say I was surprised to be elected. At this convention, I remember how overwhelming it all could seem and how challenging a learning curve there is to new deputies. Also in 2006, I was present when Katherine Jefferts Schori was elected our first female presiding bishop. I was on the floor when Michael Curry was announced as our presiding bishop in 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah. And I look forward to being there this GC as a new presiding bishop is elected by the House of Bishops on Wednesday. It is always very exciting as our new leader is elected by the bishops with the election then confirmed by the deputies. Each PB serves a 9-year term, and we are all sad to see Bishop Curry’s time come to an end. What a special man, preacher, and leader. He will be missed.


My biggest hope in beginning to participate in our polity at this level, was perhaps I could bring fresh eyes and make a difference. Serving on the Marriage Task Force was certainly a highlight for me. Now I see my role as a mentor. We have four first-time members of our deputation, out of the 10 members elected at our diocesan convention. I enjoy helping them in any way I can, and they are brilliant and wonderful contributors to our deputation.


But not all of serving on a deputation is fun. I still get very frustrated with many of the resolutions we deal with, all of the “we call upon such and such (government agency, other nations, etc.) to do something different than what we perceive they are doing." Our polity requires us to deal with every resolution in some fashion. It only takes three deputies or bishops to propose resolutions (along with dioceses, provinces, interim committees, and boards) and each resolution must be assigned to a legislative committee that holds hearings on the resolutions, then spends a lot of time combining or amending or changing them before they come to the floor to be debated.  I understand to some people those types of resolutions are vital to our work and important to debate. At this GC we only have six days of legislative sessions (formerly, before COVID-19 greatly shortened the 2022 GC, we had 10 or more days for legislation). We are doing a better job of policing ourselves as the volume of resolutions is significantly down this time. But I would love for us to spend far more time on evangelism, discipleship, sharing of resources, and developing best practices we can share with one another to turn around our declining numbers and reach the world with the gospel of Jesus. We have a great message and wonderful story to tell, wrapped up in our Presiding Bishop Curry’s words, “If it’s not about love, it’s not about God.” I hold out hope, as GC continues to be changed by new faces and new ideas, that we can focus more deeply on keeping the main thing, the main thing.

 

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